Crack is the new Crack

Duncan Steel on Whistling Kite (32) Photo by Simon Carter

Frog Buttress has been called “the crown jewel of Queensland climbing”. It’s an accurate statement. In a region blessed with variety, though not always with quality, Frog stands proud as the premier trad crag in South East Queensland. Further, I would posit that it is the only truly world-class crag on offer in the Sunshine State.

Steeped in history, Frog Buttress holds an esteemed place in Australian climbing folklore. First “discovered” by Rick White (founder of Mountain Designs) and Chris Meadows in 1968, the crag was somewhat anomalous for its era. In a time when long, trad epics on the chossy flanks of Tibrogargan, Barney and Maroon were very much in vogue, Mt French’s squat profile held limited appeal.

Rick White atop Frog Buttress (Source: Michael Meadows Collection)

Curiosity kills the cat, but it also reveals hidden gems from time to time. When this now legendary pair of climbers mosied down to the base of the cliff, what they found was some of the most sublime single pitch crack climbing to be found… well, anywhere. The popularity of the crag was undoubtedly boosted by Hot Henry Barber’s visit during his whirlwind tour of Australia. In his short time in country, Barber ruthlessly dispatched a myriad of previously aided pitches in a free climbing frenzy.

These days, Frog is a veritable mecca for trad acolytes. With a handy campground nestled among the eucalypts, toilet and barbeque facilities, easy access by both car and foot, a nearby town for supplies and a pub just down the road, there’s not a lot more you could want.

And the climbing! Hoo boy, it’s something else. With a touch under 400 routes crammed into two sections of compact cliffline, you’ll never be short of options. This is crack climbing at its best – long splitters, tasty dihedrals, claustrophobic chimneys and even the odd face climb for good measure. It’s got the lot. Unlike Indian Creek with its relentless, smooth faced splitters, climbing at Frog has a unique mixture that combines pure jamBing with convenient (or not so convenient) face holds to break the monotony.

That said, it’s not for everyone. For starters, trad is not everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re an aspiring trad leader with a shiny new rack, you might want to pump the brakes a little. It’s an old skool crag with old skool ethics, and that means sandbags galore. Recent grade adjustments have somewhat ameliorated the ridiculous undergrading of moderates which had an erstwhile reputation for spitting rookie climbers off into crumpled, quivering heaps, causing them to abandon such foolhardy endeavours and return to clipping bolts. Even with these adjustments, the grades are stout.

Additionally, crack climbing is an art form which can often elude those used to standard face holds. It can be a physical and emotional battle, and a few leads at Frog often finds me psychologically depleted at a depressingly early juncture.

Electronic Flag (14) Photo by Heleena Comino

This year has been my first season at Frog. I was given a baptism of fire in the dark art of crack climbing last year in Moab and during a brief and embarrassing foray at Indian Creek. I returned home chastened, though also determined to improve my technique in order to further my aspirations as an all-rounder. Unfortunately, by the time I returned home, Frog season had come to a close. Winter (or our approximation thereof) is really the only time to climb. Full sun aspect + crack jamBing = no bueno.

So, with the return of a marginally cooler climate, I’ve endeavoured to spend most of my weekends at Frog, often at the expense of other venues. The season seems like such a precious and limited commodity that any other course of action appears wasteful.

After my first shaky outings on some humiliatingly low grades, my technique is coming along nicely. I’m still climbing at a full 5 grades below my average onsight grade elsewhere, but that doesn’t seem to matter all that much. Climbing at Frog is an apprenticeship and, in all likelihood, a rather long haul. Despite that, it’s addictive… dangerously so. The hunger builds and builds, and it’s probably for the best that the season is limited.

Climbing aside, one of the aspects I like most about Frog is the clientele. Away from the top-rope tough-guy ethic of Kangaroo Point and the closely bolted niceties of Brooyar, Frog attracts a certain breed of climber… weird, beardy misfits with thousand yard stares and a battered rack of hexes… Ok, not really, but certainly a collection of adventurous and slightly odd specimens of humanity. The lads and ladies I’ve met at Frog are often quite warm and jovial, and generally not possessed of the competitive superficialities often found at steep sport crags. Most folks are always up for a good old yarn.

Sadly, Frog season will soon draw to a close. This will occur when Australia moves back into its normal location, about 17kms from the surface of the Sun. I’m never certain exactly where on Earth I’ll be at any given point in the future, but I’m hoping to spend a lot more quality time indulging my new found crack habit. I think this could be the start of something beautiful.

Ryan Siacci, Esq.
July 2016

7 Replies to “Crack is the new Crack”

  1. Great critique of an awesome crag. One thing though, KP has to be a world class crag too. 😉 Heh, it’s JamB. Gotta put the capitals in the right place to keep the tradition going. 🙂

  2. Yeah JamB first appeared in a publication from NSW disparaging Queensland climbers who were hard men back then and they were swiping some of the very best first ascents from the locals down there. After the spelling error was discovered Queensland climbers took it on as their own. The tradition must be kept alive. No where else can use this very local spelling for JamBing your hand in a crack. It belongs to Frog. 😉

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